A sunbed (British English), tanning bed (American English) or sun tanning bed is a device that emits ultraviolet radiation (typically 97% UVA and 3% UVB, +/-3%) to produce a cosmetic tan. Regular tanning beds use several fluorescent lamps that have phosphor blends designed to emit UV in a spectrum that is somewhat similar to the sun. Smaller, home tanning beds usually have 12 to 28 100 watt lamps while systems found in tanning salons can consist of 24 to 60 lamps, each of 100 to 200 watts.
There are also "high pressure" tanning beds that generate primarily UVA with some UVB by using highly specialized quartz lamps, reflector systems and filters. These are much more expensive, thus less commonly used. A tanning booth is similar to a tanning bed, but the person stands while tanning and the typical power output of booths is higher.
Because of the adverse effects on human health of overexposure to UV radiation, including skin cancer, cataracts, suppression of the immune system, and premature skin aging, the World Health Organization does not recommend the use of UV tanning devices for cosmetic reasons. Most tanning beds emit mainly UVA rays — which may increase the risk of melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer. Misusing a sunbed by not wearing goggles may also lead to a condition known as arc eye (snow blindness). Occasional acute injuries occur where users carelessly fall asleep, as in the case of Marty Cordova.
Although tanning beds were initially brought to America by Friedrich Wolff in 1979 he soon patented his particular blend of phosphors (since expired) and began licensing the technology to other companies. Some of the early adopters of the Wolff technology include ETS, Inc., SCA, Sun Industries, Inc., Montego Bay, Sunal. Friedrich Wolff sold Wolff Systems to his brother Jorg, the founder of Cosmedico Limited, another pioneer in the tanning industry.
From their US introduction in 1979, sunbeds have been regulated by the Food and Drug Administration's 21CFR 1040.20. This was amended in 1986 to include lamp compliance, warning labels and eye protection. This law was designed primarily to ensure that all sunbeds sold or used in salons adhered to a general set of safety rules, with the primary focus on sunbed and lamp manufacturers in regards to maximum exposure times and product equivalence. In addition, states have the opportunity to offer regulations for salons themselves, regarding the operator training, the sanitization of the sunbed and eyewear, and additional warning signs. For a comprehensive list of states with indoor tanning restrictions for minors and their specific laws, visit the National Conference of State Legislatures.